Fallible accuracy or accurate fallacy

It was a fact that the Earth was flat and now it’s a fact that it’s round.

Have you ever considered the fallibility of all we herald as historical fact? All the books we laud as certainty and truth. All the artefacts and etchings that we decipher as actuality. The people who brought us the ‘truth’? The very ‘facts’ that we are educated in?

Since I was at school I have always read so-called factual books with niggling suspicion. After all, people make things up all the time….my brother was pathological as a child! Who really knows if all the diarists and letter writers, scientists and so on, didn’t embellish and exaggerate, spin and concoct. Facts seem only to be facts until someone proves that, in fact, they are not.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t a few undeniable facts – I don’t think we’re in the freefall of the complete unknown: I was definitely born, I’ll certainly die, and gravity seems to be holding me down (although I could get subjective on that)…..however, I sometimes feel that, nowadays, we spend an awful lot of time spraying around ‘facts’ like fire extinguisher foam. The only break up in that monotony of white noise, is the pompous conjecture and guestimation relating to ancient finds, historical documents and the natural world, usually by folk, yes humans, who have been holed up in the same room for, like seven years, studying only one microscopic aspect of the whole. I would feel a lot more comfortable if everything came under the grand heading, “A rough idea of how it might have been”. It’s the huge pronouncements that I find so confusing. Don’t get me wrong…..I completely value those dedicated folk who nail down into the details but then can’t overlook the fact that every detail belongs to a bigger picture, so there is a fine line in producing truths from that level, I think.

The simple, classic example is, of course, red wine: One week top scientists claim it’ll cure everything, the next week top scientists confirm that it’ll kill you.

When in Peshawar, immediately post 09/11, we watched as the “news” was being broadcast to the rest of the world….. the “facts on the ground”!! This place that we had spent so much time in. Blending in. Suddenly was overrun with loudmouthed, disrespectful, pushy journalists from all over the world. We watched in amusement as folk we knew from down the bazaar grabbed their Father’s Kalashnikov, wrapped a rug round them and went and got paid huge sums for being interviewed as Mujahideen!!  Nuff said there I think…

Some ‘facts’ seem to arise a bit like the miscommunication involved in the game Chinese Whispers. Once it’s gone through three or four people, the original message, or fact, has been adjusted or completely lost in transit. So why do we trust so much pre, like 1950?

“But we have the documents”, I hear you cry. Of course! I mean, no person has ever put fake information in a diary, recounted details in their own favour or pretended something never happened altogether. Humans, pre about 1950, all told the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth…. Yeah right.

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt”   Bertrand Russell

We would do well to occasionally take an objective overview and allow our own brains to rationalise the ‘facts’ before us. Not just swallow them and purge over others like some sort of disorder. I am sick of hearing radio 4 repeated over and over again to me, verbatim, by different people – it is not the oracle!!!  ….not that they mention the source, it’s just fact, innit.

I dunno. Maybe I’m just one pernickety pain in the ass. I just can’t accept it and therefore gain no discernible enjoyment from hanging around with fact-sprayers. For a start it is confusing and I find the alternative, ignoring people, difficult too. So I end up wasting precious time considering all this gibber which turns out to be from the Daily Mail, Facebook or some equally reliable fact producer, and then I feel, first a dick for even considering it and second a numpty for giving it a second thought. I like to learn you see, and particularly enjoy learning from others. I’m sad to report that most folk will lie through their teeth in the hope that you won’t look it up, even folk in positions of informational responsibility. That seriously winds me up.

I find that a pinch of salt is a healthy addition to most ‘facts’, it can sometimes help draw out the seasoning of bullsh*t.

Here’s a thought….. how about accepting we don’t know everything……in fact we know very little about diddlysquat. We may never know quite a lot of things. Isn’t it incredibly exciting that there is a big, ever-changing world out there to be discovered individually, at a moment in time, by each one of us?

Don’t swallow the regurgitations of others…… go out and discover for yourself!

Sometimes the greatest experts and highest educated folk turn out to be the most narrow-minded on a subject and closed to the value of experience. Just because something is rare doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, or won’t become more frequent, or can’t change altogether. This planet and it’s inhabitants are constantly changing and evolving, there is very little ‘fact’ that doesn’t seem to change with time.


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